Protecting Your Skin From UV Light
UV light is the main culprit for the skin cancers that 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with every day. The most common forms of skin cancers include basal cell and squamous call carcinomas. Both cancers account for 90% of all skin cancers in the United States, yet only about 2,000 individuals die from them every year. Melanoma on the other hand, accounts for 1% of all skin cancers, but about 6,000 die from it every year.
Besides causing various skin cancers, overexposure to UV light can lead to eye cataracts, eye damage, skin aging (aka photoaging), growths on the skin, and immune system suppression. The main source of UV light is the sun, but it can also come from man-made sources such as tanning beds and welding torches. UV light exposure from the sun is greatest during a clear summer day, but can be reflected by snow, water, or even sand. This means that even on a cloudy day in winter, there is still potential for UV light exposure.
While there are potential dangers in overexposure to UV light, some exposure is necessary for the production of vitamin D in your skin. Vitamin D is used to promote calcium absorption to promote bone growth and bone remodeling done by osteoblasts. Vitamin D is also responsible for modulation of cell growth, which is key in preventing cancers in your body. The main source of vitamin D comes from UV light exposure to the skin, but it can also be found in supplements and foods such as salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms.
So, how can you prevent skin cancer? Skin cancer is one of the few completely preventable cancers, so use sunscreen daily and wear protective gear like sunglasses! People who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily show 24% less skin aging than those who do not use sunscreen daily, and it also lowers the risk of skin cancers. Another important step is early screening. So, if you have noticed changes in color of a mole or a new skin growth for example, ask your doctor for a skin cancer screening. These screenings are covered by Medicare as well as referral visits to dermatologists, but a skin cancer screening will not be covered if you are asymptomatic. Biannual visits to an eye doctor are also recommended, but are not covered by Medicare. However, individual vision plans are readily available to help you cover the necessary costs associated with regular visits and even prescription glasses or sunglasses.